In December 2010, I left Mom and Dad at the Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport and boarded my flight to Okinawa, Japan, where I would be reunited with my Marine-Corps-wife sister after a three-year separation. I was alone for the fourteen-hour journey, and while I was nervous, I was also excited at the prospect of living in a foreign country, of experiencing a new way of life I thought would be very different from my own. Eventually, I arrived at Okinawa’s Naha Airport and walked to my sister’s welcoming arms, exhilarated at having been grown-up enough to find my way to them. Thus began my life-changing journey to discover what Japan, and ultimately the rest of the world, had waiting for me.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Initially, living in Japan was a bit of a culture shock, but I soon discovered that Japan contains vibrant life that pulses with a beat very similar to that of the life here at home in the States. My sister and I visited such awesomely different places, including [url=http://www.nagopain.com/english/index.html]Nago Pineapple Park[/url], which showcases over 100 different kinds of pineapple, as well as pineapple chocolate and perfume; [url=http://oki-churaumi.jp/en/index.html]Churaumi Aquarium[/url], built on the Pacific Ocean; and [url=http://www.okinawa-information.com/okuma-beachresort-coralreef]Okuma Beach Resort[/url], with white sand, clear blue water, and coral pieces washed up on the beach. In each wonderful place, I found that while life in Japan was something other than what I knew, there was an unmistakable familiarity about it. True, the Japanese have different customs, such as bobbing one’s head when saying “Arigato,” or “thank you,” but I saw people shop for groceries, families take vacations, and tourists flock to flashy attractions. This familiarity comforted me because it meant that there is a basic connection that defines the universal human experience. That romantic notion of familiarity tied me down in a place that should have been so alien to me, connecting me to a people and place I felt I could have called home. I became aware that other humans were undergoing similar experiences to my own, that there is a bond that unites the human race, giving us the amazing strength to endure the seemingly insurmountable hardship that tests us all at some point or another.
As I explored the city with my sister, I was filled with wonder. I wanted to see all of Japan, all its interesting people, customs, and truly breathtaking scenery, such as the view from the [url=http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7107.html]Nagagusuku Castle ruins[/url]. The more I saw, the more connections I made between my life and the life of a Japanese citizen.
My time was running out, however, though I was not done in Japan. I wanted to know her stories. I wanted more adventure, more time to discover more of the connections that exist among men. My hunger for adventure turned ravenous, and I realized what I had found in Japan: I discovered there what I would do for the rest of my life. I saw that my small, insignificant life was important as part of the larger web of humanity, connected by threads of similar experiences. I decided then that I would travel, learning and telling the world’s stories, bit by bit framing the larger story of the universal human experience.
But then all too soon I was on the plane that would carry me home, away from the life-changing experience that now defines my future as a journalist, bound to relate the universal human experience to the rest of the world because, honestly, who doesn’t want to know that they are not alone, that they can have faith in the brotherhood of humanity?
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